The Invisible Cloak of Feminine Leadership

In August 2020, our social impact partner, IMAGO Global Grassroots, hosted a coaching series focused on feminine leadership for members of our Bold Solutions Network, which matches donors with outstanding nonprofits and social enterprises from Lever for Change competitions.
An image of Kristina Martz, Executive Operations Officer at the National Marine Mammal Foundation.
Caption: Kristina Martz, Executive Operations Officer at the National Marine Mammal Foundation.

One Network member, Kristina Martz, Executive Operations Officer at the National Marine Mammal Foundation, participated with her team. Martz and other female leaders started the series by attending a webinar that examined leadership traits traditionally considered to be “feminine” and demonstrated how leaders can use these traits to successfully navigate crises.

The webinar was co-hosted by Antoinette Klatzky, Executive Director and Co-Creator of the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute, who shared the story of designer Eileen Fisher’s mission to promote leadership in young women through self-empowerment, connection with others, and activism in their communities. After the webinar, participants met monthly in coaching circles to continue the conversation and discuss leadership skills.

Below, Kristina Martz reflects on her experience and shares her key learnings from the coaching circles.

Feminine Leadership Peer Coaching Series Reflections

I have everything I need in my back pocket. It is not just one pocket, but instead a sea of pockets embedded like scales in an armored cloak of purpose and power. Each scale holds innate and learned leadership tools waiting to be activated. This vision of a cloak of feminine leadership became a recurring theme for me throughout the Feminine Leadership Peer Coaching Series with IMAGO Global Grassroots and Lever for Change.

My team and I were honored to have access to this unique opportunity as members of the Bold Solutions Network through our 100&Change project proposal, JANE: Justice & Action Network for the Earth. At the helm of this collaborative project is the National Mammal Foundation, a female-led nonprofit, comprised of about 70% women. As female leaders working to fuel our ‘bold solution,’ we eagerly entered the space of feminine leadership and collective coaching.

An image displaying the collective conversation and discussion around feminine leadership in the coaching circles.

In our monthly coaching circles, we quickly learned that we are all facing similar and shared challenges – both related to current impacts of COVID-19 on our organizations and our personal lives, and the broader based leadership challenges faced by women wherever we lead. The common thread was that we all strive to bring about positive and impactful change to better the world around us. This sounds ambitious, right? So, how do we accomplish this?

We started by supporting each other. We each engaged as a case presenter, sharing a current challenge, and as a coach, listening to the challenges of others. We actively listened to each case presenter in an effort to tap into the undercurrents of the facts, dynamics, and emotions described, then allowed ourselves to listen to our own emergent intuitions.

For me, intently listening elicited insights into the strengths and potential of the presenter, which allowed me to offer a potentially unique perspective to support their process. The offerings from each coach resonated in a way that seemed to transcend the group, reaching a space of collective wisdom. Unexpectedly, this practice also crystallized learnings about my own leadership tendencies, assumptions, and challenges. As a case presenter, I entered ‘the room’ feeling vulnerable to judgement, and emerged empowered, mindful, and balanced.

A drawing of a women looking at her reflection in the mirror. Her reflection wears a cape resembling a rainbow-colored mermaid tail.

Then, we deepened the work. With three toddlers running around my home, the practice of stillness feels unnatural. In the first session, I sensed a visceral opposition to allowing myself, eyes closed, to take pause and grow into a state of stillness and reflection. I sat with the discomfort, grounded two feet to the earth. Then suddenly the gong sounded, and I opened my eyes to an overwhelming feeling of collective clarity and an activated wholeness.

As we shared our observations from the practice, the resulting visualization that occurred among participants was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The imagery was impressive. In that moment, from our advisor who helped tie together our collective reflections, the image of the invisible cloak of feminine leadership emerged - a glittering mermaid tail hosting an arsenal of tools, strengths, and solutions. Like stillness, the visualization did not surface naturally for me in the first session, but it was learned across each practice and enhanced the transformative process.

"I’ve been emboldened by an expanded network of women who are all passionate about their work and about elevating other women."

This journey of personal and collective discovery was both grounding and elevating. My leadership toolbox was upgraded and will continue to evolve. I’ve been emboldened by an expanded network of women who are all passionate about their work and about elevating other women. As we charge forward to launch ambitious and innovative programs to address critical social challenges, we hold compassion confidently. Compassion as a leadership strength, not an emotion to be stifled. Compassion as a driving force, for humans, animals, and our planet.

We will continue to face unique challenges, as individuals, teams, organizations, and communities, and yet we must remind ourselves that we hold the solutions within us, in our back pockets, in our glittering cloaks of our feminine leadership. It is important that we support each other in creating safe spaces where we can feel the undercurrents, tap into our instincts, bring our perspectives to light, and lead with love. It is in this transformative space where innovative and ‘bold solutions’ are born.

You can watch the Feminine Leadership Webinar from this series here.

The next round of IMAGO’s Feminine Leadership Coaching Circles begins on May 5, 2021 at 12pm ET / 3pm PT. The program is for women leaders in the Bold Solutions Network. To participate, please sign up by completing this form. For further information, please reach out to IMAGO's Jimena Vallegos.

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